ROCKINGHAM — Friday marked the 107th birthday of Ruth Carter, as well as the 107th year she’s lived in Richmond County.
Though her mobility and speech are limited in her age, Carter spent the day visiting her old stomping grounds with three of her daughters — Kathy Braddock, Sarah Parrish and Linda Carter — before coming back for a party at the Hermitage Retirement Center.
“She’s been active all her life, she tried her best to get out of that wheelchair,” Braddock said. “When she found out Linda was gonna come to take her for a ride, she wanted to ride — all she wants to do is ride, ride, ride.”
Braddock said that her mother cut her own grass until she was 94 and got her driver’s license renewed when she was 100 years old. Carter moved into Hermitage when she was 102 years old, according to Braddock.
The sisters took their mother to see her niece, whom she is still able to recognize — spending about 20 minutes talking to her after she saw her — and she recognized the Methodist Church she used to attend when she was young.
“Mamma’s been spoiled today,” Braddock said.
Carter was born Sept. 22, 1910, and married in 1925 when she was 15. She had five children in her lifetime, though two others died young, according to the younger Carter. She lived in one house for as long as Carter could remember, likely dating back to the 1940s.
Carter started work at a textile factory when she was 14, and spent the later 30-plus years of her working life as a nurse’s aid at Richmond Memorial Hospital, and other local hospitals.
When she wasn’t working, she was either cooking or gardening, according to her daughters. Braddock said that her mother would wake up at 5:30 in the morning to work on her own garden and by 6:30 would walk two houses over to help with her garden.
“All she’s ever known is working in her garden, helping me in my garden,” Braddock said. “That’s all we’ve ever known, so that’s what we did.”
Gardening may have been her pasttime, but her daughters named something else she had a reputation for: pranks — one’s you would expect from MTV rather than an old nurse from Richmond County.
Growing up the only daughter, Carter had to learn to hold her own, so when she realized her younger brother had a fear of the dead, Carter sneaked into his room at night and tied strings to his covers. Hiding under his bed, she tugged on the covers using the strings while shaking the bed from below, to terrifying effect.
Another story had Carter giving the same brother, who loved shoes, a shoe box full of manure for Christmas. In another, one of her brothers asked her for some headache medicine, but Carter gave him three powerful laxatives.
“She loved to laugh loved to play pranks and jokes, she just loved life,” Linda Carter said. “She still does.”
Braddock attributes her mother’s longevity to her eating habits and energy, as well as — perhaps more superstitiously — her distrust of medicine.
“She never did believe in taking medicine, no kind, except when her back bothered her she would take her Aleve,” Braddock said.
Any medicine that made her sleepy, she would flush down the toilet. Braddock said she would say “I ain’t sleeping a whole day, uh-uh.”
Evelyne Moore, Carter’s caregiver for the last month, said that even though she’s only been with her for a short time, she can tell the kind of person she is.
“You can tell she’s got one of those good personalities, easy to love,” Moore said. “She’s 107 and she’ll still try to help you as much as she can. You know she was an independent person.
“You can’t help but to love Mrs. Ruth.”
Reach Gavin Stone at 910-817-2674.